The Graves Issue for LGBTQ
Updated: Jun 1
The term "LGBTQ" is now often heard in Japan. The meaning of LGBTQ is a general term for sexual minorities.
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Recently, LGBTQ issues are often discussed, but the biggest LGBTQ issue that has been around for a long time now is regarding same-sex marriage. In Japan, same-sex marriage is still not recognized, so LGBTQ issues, such as not being able to go to the grave together, exist even after the death of people.
Let's take a look at the relationship between the LGBTQ community and graves and what solutions are available to address the problem of people of this community not being able to be buried together in the same grave.
What Is LGBTQ in the First Place?
Let's start with the meaning of LGBTQ. LGBTQ is a general term for sexual minorities, but it is an acronym for each word. Below are the meanings of LGBTQ.
L (Lesbian): A woman who likes the same sex.
G (Gay): A man who is attracted to the same sex.
B (Bisexual): A person who can like both the same and opposite sex.
T (Transgender): A person whose body and mind are of different sexes.
Q (Queer/Questioning): A person who does not fit into a specific category regarding his or her sexuality, or a person whose sexual orientation or gender identity is unclear or cannot be determined.
Today, there are many different terms for gender awareness that do not fit within the LGBTQ meaning alone. Gender recognition is not something that can be described in one word because of the way one feels about one's sexuality and about other people's sexuality, and there are a wide variety of worldviews.
Can We Be Buried in the Same Grave Even if We Are Not Legally Married?
There are many different views on the issue of LGBTQ people sharing a grave. This is because Japanese graves are based primarily on the "family structure," and it is difficult to accept people who are not family members.
The law does not specify who can be placed in the grave with whom. Therefore, for people of the LGBTQ community who wish to be placed together in a grave, if the cemetery or the relatives approve it, it is possible for them to be placed together.
However, some cemeteries may specify the number of relatives who may be placed in the same grave. In such cases, it is advisable to bring evidence of your lawful marital status and discuss it with the cemetery. Recently, there have been more and more cemeteries that do not have a problem with LGBTQ people being placed in the grave, so it is often possible to place them in the same grave together.
Also, if you wish to be placed in a grave that has been passed down from generation to generation along with other family members, you must obtain the consensus of your relatives. This is because LGBTQ people in Japan face problems relating to same-sex marriage issues and, therefore, cannot become family members.
Further, the Civil Code has an article called "Recognition of Rights Related to Rituals". This specifies the person who presides over the rituals to take over the graves. Therefore, LGBTQ community people are allowed to enter the grave together as long as they can obtain the consent of the person in charge of the ritual.
Current Status of LGBTQ in Japan
The percentage of the LGBTQ population in Japan is said to be in the range of a few percent to 10%, as there are cases where those involved are not open. As a result, the percentage of the LGBTQ community in Japan tends to be lower than the percentage of LGBTQ people in other countries.
This is because many foreign countries have approved of "same-sex marriage," which is one of the major LGBTQ issues in other countries. One example is Austria, which has many homosexual immigrants worldwide because of its recognition of same-sex marriage. Also, a grand LGBTQ parade (Pride Parade) is held once a year, and when the day approaches, the city is decorated with rainbow-colored flags and decorations, which symbolize the LGBTQ people. This also attracts many tourists.
Is Same-Sex Marriage Recognized in Japan?
Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Japan. The reason why same-sex marriage is not recognized in Japan is due to the Constitution. Today, despite advocating for equal rights as human beings, Japan's LGBTQ, same-sex marriage issue is not recognized. There are voices on both sides, in favor of and against this.
Perhaps in response to this, the homosexual ‘partnership’ system is now recognized by various municipalities and local governments in Japan. Since Japan does not recognize same-sex marriages, the partnership system is a unique system established by local governments to issue certificates to LGBTQ couples as a "relationship equivalent to marriage", etcetera.
This has made it easier for them to receive various social services and considerations, such as being treated like family in hospitals, being able to move into public housing as family members, and becoming the recipient of life insurance, etcetera.
Since the first partnership system was implemented in the Shibuya ward in Japan, in 2015, the partnership system has spread throughout Japan and is now implemented in more than 200 municipalities. This partnership system does not recognize same-sex marriages in Japan, so they cannot legally become a family.
However, while this system has not fundamentally solved the same-sex marriage problem within LGBTQ, it has actually helped homosexuals to live their lives together with their partners.
To Sleep with a Loving Partner as LGBTQ
Despite the fact that LGBTQ issues in Japan have eased in some respects, there are still many cases where relatives and others do not agree that LGBTQ people should be buried together in a grave. So, what are the options available for graves and memorial services? Let's take a closer look.
Memorial services at a “perpetual care cemetery” or “tree burial”
In order to solve the problem of LGBTQ people who want to be buried with their loved ones but are unable to do so, there are more and more cemeteries and temples offering memorial services such as being buried with their loved ones in perpetual/ permanent memorial services or tree burial grounds.